I'm spending all of my writing time finishing the new cookbook so today I have another guest post for you from a friend and acupuncturist here in Northwestern Washington. Nancy Moore runs a busy acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine practice. She can also be found on her oriental medicine blog. Today she talks about bitter spring greens and why, at this time of year, it is of utmost importance to support our detoxifying organs, the liver and gallbladder. ~Ali
Green is the color associated with springtime in Chinese medicine, which, in the Five Element cycle, is the Wood phase, a time to cleanse and nourish the Liver and Gallbladder systems.
The best remedies for stimulating and supporting the Liver-Gallbladder systems are colored green! Chlorophyll-rich leafy greens have the new, active, ascending nature of spring within them to help detoxify and de-stagnate our bodies in this season of renewal.
Some of these greens also have the bitter taste that is almost completely absent in our diet, which herbalist Jim McDonald feels is essential for health. In a great article entitled “Blessed Bitters” McDonald suggests that many of our modern-day health woes are the result of Bitter Deficiency Syndrome. He states that bitters stimulate all digestive secretions and stomach acid, help regulate the absorption of vitamin B12, normalize blood sugar, promote the production and release of pancreatic enzymes and bile, strengthen the tone of tissues throughout the digestive tract, heal damaged mucous membranes, soothe gastric reflux, aid intestinal peristalsis, and reduce cravings for sweets.
On an emotional level, dark green leafy vegetables and bitters have both a grounding quality and a “releasing” property—calming an edgy-irritable system and helping us let go of sluggish, stuck, negative energy. This makes sense when we remember that a large portion of our “feel-good” neurotransmitters—including serotonin and dopamine—are utilized in the gut, not the brain. Greens, especially those that are pungent (sour) or bitter, stimulate these!
Photo Credit: Nancy Moore
Greens for Liver-Gallbladder Stimulation and Health:
- Red or green mustard greens
- Dandelion greens
In other words, the same kind of greens you find in an expensive restaurant salad!
The last two—dandelion greens and nettles—are abundant and free greens in this area, both packed full of super nutrients. Dandelion greens (in our local food co-op salad section now, or in some backyards near you) have been used for centuries for general detoxification, liver, gallbladder, and kidney health, joint problems, blood purification, eczema, poor digestion, and breast health. Harvest them in less traveled areas away from animal contamination. Nettles are high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, boron, carotenoids, iron, and the flavonoid quercetin, which has been found to have anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine effects for seasonal allergies. Nettles can be collected all around the area—just wear gloves and cook or dehydrate them to eliminate the stinging properties.
If the bitter flavor of some greens is not appealing, try adding them slowly into the diet to allow the brain and digestive system time to adjust. You can add a little vinegar or lemon juice to mellow the bitter flavor which will also aid in the assimilation of minerals. Adding freshly grated ginger to a dressing “warms up” the flavor of salad greens.
Above all, open yourself to new tastes, ideas, and experiences in this amazing season of growth. Go green, baby!
Spring Chives in my Garden
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